This piece is meant to get you up to speed on the side project landscape by providing a glimpse at different types of projects, examples of each, and developing trends in the space.
While they come in many forms, side projects all involve using one’s free time in a structured manner in pursuit of a goal.
Types of Projects
Broadly speaking, side projects come in the categories of formalizing a hobby, starting a business, or advancing a career.
These projects serve as hobbies – something done for passion over paycheck.
Makers either focus on building hardware or software products.
- Make.co – an online community for makers
- Maker Faire – event for makers
- Naomi Wu – one of China’s most famous makers
- Hacker News – online discussion board for coders and entrepreneurs
- Stack Overflow – largest community of developers
- Side project ideas – 125 different software project ideas
This group creates via writing, video creation, photography, etc.
These projects aim to make money.
Projects meant to make an additional stream of income.
- Indie Hackers – a community of hackers building profitable online businesses
Starting a company while working a full-time job with the goal of eventually going all-in
- Airbnb started out as a side project (and so did Twitter, Instagram, Slack, and more!)
- Many businesses start this way! Listen here for an argument as to why you should start your business while you still have your job
Most people don’t think about this, but it’s entirely possible to gain experience in a field outside of your current role via side projects, be it for exploration, switching jobs, or advancing your current position.
Using side projects to try out different roles.
Gaining experience in a different field.
Exercising entrepreneurial traits in your current work.
- Build in public to form new connections, gain an audience for your product, and solidify your own learnings
- Leverage the rise of remote work to use the extra time to work on what makes you happy – you’ll be learning along the way
- Get your start as a solopreneur via side projects, learning each piece of the business slowly before taking the leap full-time
- There will be “multi-makers” – people running multiple, profitable projects. Some people to watch: Pietr Levels, Dru Riley, Mubashar Iqbal, and David Delahunty
- Companies will encourage employees to do stretch assignments and side projects; Google is known for its 20 percent time initiative
- Companies will use also side projects as growth tools to help their regular businesses, building products separate from their core offerings to offer value to new prospects
- Out of Hours – online community with events and resources on side projects
- Side Project Sessions – regular event series to work on side projects
- Creative Mornings – in-person meetings for creatives
- Making a Side Project – 13-part series covering the author’s journey creating an app
- BKYD Playbook – general information to kickoff, grow, and finish a project
- After Hour Projects guide – a guide to using side projects for career advancement
- The Strategic Side Gig – HBR article on how activities outside of your job can help you with your job
- A Quarantine Startup – An author’s journey launching a beard oil while in quarantine
- After Hour Projects podcast – The “How I Built This” for Side Projects
Bottom Line: the side project landscape provides plenty of options to formalize a hobby, further a career, or start a business.